By Lesly Velasco Guerra; April 20, 2021
Since the temporary pause of in-person classes last year, the CPP Equestrian Team has had to hold its horses and postpone shows and in-person riding, switched to virtual club meetings when the COVID-19 pandemic hit to avoid being shut down.
However, since CPP administration announced via email that some classes will resume with in-person elements in fall 2021, many on the equestrian team hope for a return to normalcy soon.
“A lot of students use this team and this class as a way to destress,” explained CPP Equestrian President Sydney Cook. “Riding horses and being around animals is a really big de-stressing element that has now been taken out of their lives. Keeping in contact with students, reminding them to care for their mental health and giving them other ways to still keep in touch has been the most difficult thing but also the most rewarding.”
Cook explained that since spring 2020, the team has met on Zoom Tuesdays during U-hour to learn and practice horsemanship skills. However, professional instructors Kate McComas, who teaches hunt seat riding lessons, and Macey McCallion, who teaches Western-style riding, currently teach outside of campus where students are invited but not required to participate.
Though the equestrian team is technically part of the Arabian Horse Center at CPP, they are two separate entities. The team is funded by CPP, yet students enrolled in the class pay dues ranging from $125-$170. The team shows for Hunt Seat and Western Disciplines style of riding through the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, competing against surrounding and out of state schools.
During regular season, the horses are leased out or brought in by members themselves. While students are away, the horses are returned to their owners.
Club Vice President Albert Chu mentioned that since the pandemic began, the team has been forced to take a step back, sacrificing CPP’s learning by doing approach to education.
“The e-board and a lot of its leaders and advisors have adapted to it,” said Chu. “To make PowerPoints, do weekly video class and just present on topics we want to present. But it’s definitely hard to keep our general members engaged.”
Cook mentioned plans for next semester have not yet been finalized but there will be a downsizing of student class size and less horse riding. Although there is no official direction regarding future shows, Cook explained that as soon as they get back to riding, the team will begin to prepare for showing in case allowed to do so.
Hunt Seat Co-Captain Haley Brashers teaches English-style riding on the days that McComas doesn’t and works with show preparations. Brashers explained that the team typically prepares two weeks before a show. Although all shows are hard work, those hosted by CPP have the highest expectations and take at least two months of planning.
“Getting to ride and meeting all the new people,” has been Brashers’ favorite part of being on the team. “Just because we have so many different people that haven’t even been around a horse before and just getting them involved with the team is always great and seeing how much they have improved,” she said.
The team is open to all majors and all levels of riding expertise. In order to join, students must register for AVS 2990, a 1-unit graded course. Members are required to work on weekly chores, planned according to their schedule, but are not required to show. Once chores are completed, students are able to sign up and attend lessons from student instructors or professional instructors.
“We wanted to create a place for students to come in and create a community within Cal Poly,” said Cook. “The Arabian Horse Center is one of those big areas of the schools that draws in a lot of people so it’s really awesome to see students from different majors and backgrounds coming in and coming together.”
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